From the President’s Pen: The United States will return to the table, cooperation will intensify

The result of the presidential election, also closely followed in Finland, is now clear. Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States. After waiting for the votes to be counted, we turn our attention to what the United States will do in the future.

It is quite understandable that the Biden administration’s attention will be mostly on domestic issues. In addition to managing the coronavirus epidemic and the economy, much remains to be done to resolve internal confrontation within the country. Biden referred to this immediately in his victory speech.

But there will also be action in international relations. I believe we may expect from the United States a return to the table, a clearer commitment to orderly international cooperation. Of course, we particularly hope for a return to the Paris table, the international climate agreement. The change may also be reflected in the way the United States operates both the UN system and in NATO.

I assume that the EU, as an institution, will once again become more clearly a partner of the United States than in recent years. We rightly emphasise the importance of that transatlantic relationship. A return to the “golden age” of the late 1990s, for example, can hardly be expected, however. It is necessary to see the broader picture. The United States’ interest is increasingly focused on the Pacific region. This is shaped by the rise of China and is not dependent on which American administration happens to be in power. The weighting given to Europe in American thinking will also be affected by demographic trends there. The number of direct European connections is declining from generation to generation.

Despite that, I believe the transatlantic relationship will work well during Biden’s term of office. This might also be linked in a new way to the concept that has been called the “democratic alliance”. Thus something we have been accustomed to call the Western world. Now the Asian democracies might also be incorporated into this. It will be fascinating to follow how such thinking may begin to advance.

Bilateral relations between Finland and the United States have traditionally been good. It is important to note that, over the last five years, the relationship has intensified considerably and gained new concrete content. Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Crimea at the end of President Obama’s term were the initial impetus for this. The new security issue extended to the Baltic Sea region also increased the United States’ interest in Finland. There is a demand for Finland’s understanding of Russia. But our Chairmanship of the Arctic Council also came at a time of interest to the Americans, particularly with regard to the rise of China.

Cooperation between Finland and the United States is about much more than mere security policy. Finnish technology, particularly icebreaker and 5G know-how, has come strongly to the fore in recent years. We talked about these issues with President Trump in Washington a year ago, and I do not believe that interest in them will diminish with the change of government. Of course, the HX fighter procurement facing Finland will also continue to be a pressing issue.

The future President, Joe Biden, is well known in Finland. As on many other occasions, I met the then Vice President on his visit to Finland in 2011, when I was Speaker of Parliament. Biden’s congratulatory greeting to Finland on the 100th anniversary of its independence in 2017 is worth looking at. It conveys a strong message. My own discussions with Biden continued a few years ago at the Munich Security Conference, and it will be good to build on that. In any case, we have maintained continuous contacts with both American parties, as was exemplified by the visit of the Democratic and Republican senators to Kultaranta in summer 2018, which I valued greatly.

Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware has a very special relationship with Finland. It was there in 1638 that the first Finns and Swedes arrived, entering the territory that later became the United States. This centuries-old connection is well known in Delaware, and I referred to it in the letter of congratulation I sent to Biden yesterday. The signs for a further intensification of the partnership between Finland and the United States are good.